A Drash for V’Etchanan (5767)
by Marc Mangel
Today we begin the inexorable countdown towards Rosh HaShanah and Teshuvah – returning to find the essence of goodness in ourselves and in others – back to our roots in Godliness and discovering them as our true nature.
What is the main barrier between us and Teshuvah? The answer is simple: We are. And more particularly, from this week’s parsha we learn that we create a barrier to Teshuvah through our unwillingness to accept responsibility for our actions.
The main principles of Judaism are in this parsha – the prohibition of idolatry, the principles of the unity, love and fear of God; the 10 commandments, and the duty of studying Torah. But it begins as Moses rebukes the Israelites explaining that “I implored Ha Shem…[to] let me cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan”. The midrash teaches that Moshe said 515 prayers (the gematria of Vetchanan) because his desire to enter the holy land was so strong.
Moses says that he cannot enter the promised land because “HaShem became angry with me because of you and he did not listen to me” (Ch 3, v 25). Later in this parsha Moses once again say “HaShem became angry with me because of your matters, and He swore that I would not cross the Jordan” (Ch 4, V 21). Yet we know that Moses is not allowed to enter the promised land because of his action – striking a rock rather than speaking to it. Moses, our greatest teacher and leader, was unable to take responsibility for his own actions. We are not alone in this problem.
The Rebbe teaches that “by the Mitzvot a Jew sanctifies what is permitted. But by Teshuvah, a Jew sanctifies the entire past life.” The Shomer HaBrit teaches that one act of kindness can have repercussions for 1000 generations, so in the next 7 weeks let us each just do one act of kindness and affect 2500 generations.
And let us be sure to remember that if you want to get into the promised land, you need to take responsibility for your actions.